The Danish Minister of Economic and Business Affairs, Brian Mikkelsen, spent the day in Silicon Valley during his recent trip to the US.
After visiting MIT, IBM, LEO Pharma, and DONG, in Boston, Brian Mikkelsen made his way down to Washington D.C. where he met with Local Motors and the University of Maryland, before flying over to the West Coast. After touching down in SFO, Mikkelsen set off inland again towards Sacramento to discuss energy politics, water and wind, with Governor Brown, (Acting) Director of Department of Water Resources William Croyle, and Californiens “Water Zar” (Chair of State Water Board), Felicia Marcus.
The following day stated bright and early at Danish founded but US Public company Zendesk. Here, Mikkelsen attended a round table discussion with Silicon Valley based Danish entrepreneurs including Vivino, Realm, Onelogin, and YooNoodle, to learn about what it’s like for a Danes who take their companies to the US.
The Minister began the discussion by talking about how Denmark is traditionally a nation of ‘employees', and not ‘employers', and how that needs to change by fostering a culture that encourages entrepreneurship. He referenced the fact that in Danish schools, children are still learning to sew using the same “sewing cards” that he himself used as a child, when perhaps they should in fact be learning to code.
The discussions also touched on how visas can not only be an initial hindrance for Danes who want to come to the US to do business, but how once in the US, the strict visa laws make it difficult to allow for movement back and forth between the US and Denmark, often resulting in founders remaining in the US so as not to jeopardise, for example, Green Card applications.
After a productive discussion, Mikkelsen and his delegation made their way south towards Palo Alto.
First stop was with venture capitalists Innovation Endeavours, founded by Google’s Eric Schmidt. Mikkelsen met with Dror Berman, who originally hails fro Israel, and who was able to give some some insights into the success of the Israeli startup culture, which he partially credited to the skills gained during Israelis time spent in the military, and how it helped form strong teams who had already been working together for three years. He also talked about how Israel was heavily invested in cyber security and agriculture.
Next were some very impressive presentations from Innovation Endeavours backed companies including Color who do affordable genetic testing, Plenty.ag who create a highly engineered food environment rather than engineering food, and Freenome who do incredibly cost effective early stage cancer detection.
Mikkelsen then moved on to meet with Silicon Valley Bank, where apart from talking about how a bank geared towards startups differs from a “regular” bank partially by how they think about credit and capital differently, they also discussed what will happen to car insurers when all cars are autonomous, and there are far less accidents, and what will be the next industry to get "Ubered"?
Then it was onwards to startup incubator StartX, before a short visit to Stanford University, and a final stop at Essex Woodlands where a resounding quote from Churchill was brought up, that nicely encapsulated the learnings from the day;
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
(Post by Emilia Flockhart)